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New Delhi: Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi on Friday sought a 10-week extension of the deadline set by the Surpeme Court for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over all cases related to the so-called Vyapam scandal in Madhya Pradesh, saying the agency doesn’t have enough detectives to do so.

Rohatgi said the CBI needs at least 700 more people for conducting investigations into the scandal, which involves irregularities in the conduct of the entrace test for admission to professional courses.

Many witnesses, suspects and others connected with the scandal, which also involves suspected wrongdoing in government job recruitments, have died in mysterious circumstances.

He made his case for more time for CBI to complete the process of taking over all related cases from Madhya Pradesh agencies and filing first information reports after the apex court on 29 July gave it three weeks to do so.

On Friday, the Supreme Court denied the 10-week extension sought by CBI to take over all the cases in connection with Vyapam but agreed to hear the department of personnel and training of the agency so that filling up vacancies in the investigating agency could be considered.

“Around 2,000 officers from the Madhya Pradesh police force were investigating the matter. Now that we’ve taken over the investigation, we need atleast 700 more officers," Rohatgi told the court.

The CBI on 27 July had made a similar appeal before the Supreme Court in connection with a probe it is conducting into a ponzi scam in West Bengal. The court then directed the West Bengal government and the CBI director to discuss sharing of staff.

According to the lastest annual report of the CBI, which was published at the end of 2013, it had 922 pending cases/enquiries. There were as many as 9,366 cases pending in various courts at the end of the year, the report said.

The total sanctioned strength of CBI as on 31 December 2013 was 6,674; it had a staff strength of 5,796 officers, with 878 posts lying vacant.

The vacancies existed at the level of special or additional director, joint director, deputy inspector-general of police, senior superintendent of police, superintendent of police, additional superintendent of police, deputy superintendent of police, inspector, sub-inspector, assistant sub-inspector, and head constables.

The attorney general told the court on Friday that more than 50% of the CBI’s current employees are on deputation from various state police cadres. The centre has plans to increase the strength of the main CBI cadre, but would need more time to do so, the court was informed.

Senior counsel Prashant Bhushan said along with addressing shortage of staff, the centre should also look at lessening the burden of the CBI.

“The reason everyone demands a CBI inquiry is because the local government investigating agnecies are generally partial and not trustworthy. Institutions like the Lokpal, Central Vigilance Commission, serious fraud investigation office should be empowered to take on investigation and only that will help the situation. " he said.

Gyan Varma contributed to the story.

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